Southern Baptist churches and their IMB (International Mission Board) seized the opportunity in 2008 to more boldly impact lostness. During their September meeting, IMB trustees approved a reorganization to shift from a regional focus to “affinity groups,” drawing together larger people groups related by language, history and culture. Focusing strategy through affinity groups rather than regions gives missionaries a more complete picture of the people they are working to reach and the freedom to pursue the lost regardless of their location.
Last year IMB missionaries reported that they shared the Gospel among 1,190 people groups, including 100 groups who heard the Gospel for the first time. However, thousands of unreached people groups still are not engaged by IMB or its partners. For them to have the opportunity to hear the Gospel, IMB leaders have challenged Southern Baptists to add more missionaries to the current total of 5,629.
To achieve evangelistic advance worldwide, IMB missionaries and their overseas Baptist partners reported nearly 27,000 new churches and nearly 566,000 baptisms. Affiliated church membership exceeded 10.3 million believers.
Due in large part to the dwindling U.S. economy, Southern Baptist giving to international missions struggled to keep pace with the numbers of church members coming forward for overseas service. Southern Baptists gave $141.3 million to the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® – $9 million less than offering receipts from each of the past two years. Still, the number of field personnel appointed in 2008 was 958 — 114 more individuals than were appointed the previous year. Of that 958 total, the number of long-term workers appointed was 388. At the end of 2008, the total number of missionaries serving through IMB was 5,495.
IMB continues to expand personalized relationships between U.S. churches, evangelical partners, overseas personnel and affinity groups. Also, IMB is providing U.S. churches with coaching and resources that support them as they become strategically involved.
Southern Baptists responded to hunger and relief needs through 508 projects. Giving in the amount of $600,000 supplied food, water filters and purification systems, building materials, sanitation systems and health care to Myanmar after a deadly cyclone in early May last year and to China’s Sichuan province rocked by an earthquake days later. Other countries receiving assistance included Zimbabwe, to which 3,900 packages of food were shipped in the wake of its collapsing economy, and Mali, which received 250 tons of grain with the help of a volunteer team from South Carolina. World Hunger and General Relief fund receipts in 2008 totaled $5.4 million.
God has called His people to proclaim His name among all peoples. Yet, 5,771 people groups are hidden behind barriers of culture, geography, politics and language. That’s nearly 1.5 billion people who have little or no access to the Gospel.
God is using Southern Baptists, however, to find peoples around the world who are missing Christ’s invitation to spend eternity with Him. Your gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering help believers carry out the mission to share Christís Gospel with them.
IMB is a Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of Womanís Missionary Union.